Trainer Mike Maker has half the field in this year's $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel, the featured event of five stakes to be held for the first time Dec. 3 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Louisiana.
The series, which puts racing's blue-collar workers in the spotlight, has been held at Canterbury Park for 10 of the Claiming Crown's 12 previous editions.
Maker has enjoyed much success in the Claiming Crown, winning seven races in the past four years. He captured last year's Jewel with Headache for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
In this year's renewal, which attracted a total of six contestants, Maker has entered William Butler's entry of Al Muhtasib and Isthmus, as well as Harmonizer.
The 1 1/8-mile race, scheduled as the ninth on the program with a 3:55 p.m. CST expected start time, is open to horses that have raced for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since 2010.
Maker claimed Al Muhtasib out of a $35,000 optional allowance race Nov. 6 at Hawthorne, a race the 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt won by 2 1/4 lengths. Al Muhtasib, also claimed for $50,000 at Saratoga this summer, will be making his first start for his new connections.
He has won three of five races this year and will shoulder co-top weight of 124 pounds. Julien Leparoux has the mount.
The other half of the Butler entry, Isthmus, is a 3-year-old son of Flower Alley coming off a third-place effort against an optional claiming field going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs Nov. 13. He won another optional claimer at Hoosier Park by three lengths in September and has captured three of nine starts in 2011. Rosie Napravnik has the call.
Harmonizer, owned by Hugh Zurkuhlen, ran third in the Nov. 5 Mountaineer Mile in West Virginia. The 5-year-old gelding by Volponi has won twice from seven tries this year. He drew the rail with local rider Corey Lanerie aboard.
It Happened Again, trained by Steve Asmussen for Maggi Moss, is the most accomplished member of the field with seven lifetime wins in 26 starts and earnings of $346,578. But the 5-year-old Proud Citizen gelding, winner of Oaklawn Park's Razorback Handicap (gr. III) in March, has not been out since a 10th-place showing in the Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) June 25 at Prairie Meadows. Shane Sellers has the riding assignment.
Sovereign Stable's Rein King figures to set the pace. Invading from New York for trainer John Terranova II, the 4-year-old Roman Ruler gelding has a pair of front-running victories this year. In his most recent appearance, Rein King ran third as the favorite in a first-level allowance at Belmont Park Oct. 15.
Tutti Buona Gente, gate-to-wire winner of a starter allowance at Hooiser Oct. 23, could also show speed for trainer Michelle Lovell. Agave Racing Stable's 5-year-old son of Aldebaran pressed the issue in his most recent start before fading to fifth in the same optional claiming race at Churchill Downs in which Isthmus finished third Nov. 13.
Here is the lineup for the other Claiming Crown events on the card:
-- The Iron Horse (race 4), $50,000, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles that have started for a claiming price of $7,500;
-- The Express (race 5), $50,000, for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs ($7,500);
-- The Glass Slipper (race 7), $75,000, for 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, at six furlongs ($16,000);
-- The Emerald (race 8), $100,000, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the turf ($25,000).
There were 39 horese entered for the five races. The $75,000 Rapid Transit, for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs on the dirt, was dropped from the lineup this year due to an insufficient number of entries.
$150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel (Race 9, 3:55 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Harmonizer (KY), C J Lanerie, 124, M J Maker
2. a-Al Muhtasib (KY), J R Leparoux, 124, M J Maker
3. a-Isthmus (KY), R Napravnik, 122, M J Maker
4. Rein King (FL), J Graham, 120, J P Terranova II
5. Tutti Buona Gente (KY), S Bridgmohan, 118, M Lovell
6. It Happened Again (KY), S J Sellers, 124, S M Asmussen
a- coupled entry